Two Bricks

5 Against the House (1955, from a Jack Finney story published a year earlier) wasn’t that much of a flick, but it does have a cool gnarly macho cynical smart assed brain damaged guy named Brick (Brian Keith). The chicks dig him–the bad women, especially, molls like Jean Willes–and he digs chicks, something the Brick (Paul Newman) in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958, though the play premiered in 1955) was a little weak on. That Brick was a football hero, this Brick a war hero. That Brick had been disintegrating for years, a lush, a loser, a bum knee, while this Brick (who’d apparently taken a bullet or shrapnel in the noggin while earning a medal) disintegrates by the end of the movie, a tough guy PTSD mess, dangerous and out of control. He’s no Tennessee Williams tragedy, in fact there’s nothing Southern Gothic about this Brick at all, rather he’s yankee to the core, efficient, a doer and when he sets his mind to rob Harrah’s in Reno with his Korean War buddies–Robin and the 7 Hoods copped this tale–he gets it done. It’s only then that he totally freaks like Bogie in Treasure of Sierra Madre, consumed by greed and paranoia, and you know he’s gonna go down. Suddenly the plot does a goodie goodie 180° turnaround–like I said, this is not Tennessee Williams–and Brick’s heist mate pals talk him into surrendering, which means a stretch in a padded cell and no Jean Willes. Shit. The other Brick winds up with Maggie the Cat. Shit. Too many guys named Brick winding up losers. Hate to think it’s an omen. I mean I got the bum knee and the brain damage….

5 against the House

Brick (Brian Keith) wowing Virginia (Jean Willes) with his charm, gnarliness and existential nihilism.

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